9/11 Led Us to The Park

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If you were old enough, you remember where you were the day planes crashed into buildings and the world changed forever.

I was shaken awake by my husband at the news we were under attack. “We”: our small nuclear family of three, thousands of miles away from actual destruction, death, and chaos. Yes, “we” were under attack.

What we believed about the world was no longer true. How we trusted goodness and leaned into love was challenged to the absolute core. I’ve never felt more a part of that larger “we” than I did with the events of that horrible day.

Maybe I had no right. I had walked away from the TV images and taken our then one-year-old son to the empty and silent playground at a park in Castle Rock, Colorado. No one was there playing. No one was laughing, or swinging, or chasing, or sliding. No planes flew overhead and yet in that silent stillness I felt this guttural connection to the contrast of noise: the sirens, the roar of collapsing buildings, and the screams of terrified people.

What I discovered at that playground is that we stop living when we’re under attack.

The trajectory of life changed for a lot of people on that day, and our family was no exception.

Later that fall, on a road trip back from Minnesota I asked my husband whether he felt like our lives were purposeful. Lots of people asked that question in the wake of 9/11 and those who spent time truth-seeking found unique and various answers. Some felt called to rush to the scene as helpers. Others felt the need to take up arms and physically defend against other possible attacks. Some moved home. Some set off to see the world. Some got married. Some made babies. Some made art. And some, feeling utterly useless otherwise, set out to the park.

No matter what our next steps were, we all had to step into a brand new world.

The attack changed us. For those who honestly sought guidance to return to truth and purpose, I have watched in so many beautiful ways how the gaping hole of 9/11 has planted gorgeous outgrowth in response.

It certainly happened for me and my husband. It has been a slow-growing and unexpected revelation but we did keep earnestly seeking in pursuit of the one thing that felt like our battle against attack. After eighteen years, we have landed at The Park.

I will spend time in upcoming blogposts writing about how this story has unfolded for us,  but here is a glimpse of the destination we didn’t even know we were pursuing. It is a testament to the power of faith and proof that goodness and love remain. No attack can diminish them.

WOODWIND PARK VIDEO

 

Meagan Frank Copyright 2019

 

Choose a Territory of Love

I was on the ground in four states yesterday, flying from Colorado to Arizona to Minnesota and then shuttling to Wisconsin. I’ll do the trip backward tomorrow, without the annoying Phoenix connection.

It’s how I roll this time of year.

On the weekends, I sleep in an RV bus. I spend my time wandering around a foothill in Larkspur, Colorado, listening to minstrels and bagpipes, and marveling at people willing to spend hours on makeup and costumes, some of whom get paid to do it.

Then I pop home a few times during the week and find scenes like this one, unfolding in my kitchen.

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With a six-hour solo travel day on planes and in airports, it’s impossible not to people watch (and listen).

I’ve decided something important. No matter where you are, or with whom, you choose your territory. It goes with you and you have so much more choice about the territory you carry than most people realize.

If you watch the video long enough, you’ll see my neighbor’s cat pop in the window, sidling up to the music. His owner is away house sitting as she prepares to build a house next door to the one she sold. The vet told her to leave Frank, the cat, in his territory because cats are more tied to territories than people.

I’m not sure I totally buy that because I know Frank absolutely adores my neighbor and I think the rest of the neighbors he visits make the territory he roams a loving one. He has been a stray for part of his life, but navigates by seeking out the support he needs. Without loving people, I don’t think Frank would stay in this territory. He certainly has the demeanor to attract loving people and maybe that’s the sort of territory the vet meant. Cat’s create their territories by how they come into an area.

So, today, no matter where you are, or with whom you are navigating the spaces you occupy, I challenge you to imagine the most loving territory you can, and bring it with you everywhere you go.

Copyright 2019 Meagan Frank

Rallying for Life…as Women March

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“Those are the weird people in Menomonie,” said a teenaged girl, after my daughter explained that the group gathering at the University clock tower was getting ready to march.

I’m pretty sure my daughter was grateful I wasn’t in the crowd yet.

To be honest…I was scared to go.

I know the sentiment of many people in our community and I worried I would be misunderstood. I’ve never rallied, I’ve never marched, I’ve never been a physical part of any movement whatsoever, and I’ve watched and listened to the anger rising in this country because we’ve stopped listening to one another.

The details of the reasons I felt compelled to walk would be of little importance to the people who assume I’ve taken sides.

My husband and I had a bet about whether anyone would drive by and try to splash me, or yell at me or throw things at me. He said there would be honking in support and I said there would be angry yelling. We were both right. Plenty of people honked in support (for which sign I don’t know because there were so many), but there was anger too. One man revved his truck engine at a stoplight and another yelled out the window and flipped off the group as he drove by. There have been angry rants on Facebook since, and no doubt even posting this blog will move me to a new place in people’s estimation of me.

I truly don’t take offense to that young lady’s assessment that weird people were gathering, because she’s probably right. I am one of the weird people…practically everywhere I go.

What makes me weird is my inability (or maybe my unwillingness) to fully align with mary-poppins-mrs-banksa group.  I am a white, Catholic woman who believes in pro-life…for everyone…coaches a diverse boys high school soccer team in a Wisconsin football town, writes books, and runs a kitchen employing seasonal workers at the Colorado Renaissance Festival.  I would say I am a conservative Democrat/ liberal Republican. I work hard to love saints and sinners alike and I oscillate between the two camps on a daily basis. It’s complicated.

As a family, we occupy this weird space in the world, and there isn’t another family anywhere who is going to understand us. Maybe that’s why I am slower to judge the complications and uniqueness of each family and the choices people make, including the choices people made this past weekend.

I’m grateful to be alive at this point in history when it is possible to have the freedom to be so complicated…and to march for it. I marched on Saturday (with my Protestant friend who has been a staunch Republican…and felt strange surrounded by so many Democrats). Like I said, it’s complicated.

It was a rally for me from the beginning. Some who marched were there to protest, but I was there to rally around the freedoms  I cherish and to put into action my vow to defend those freedoms for every person. Every. One.

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The reasons I walked are unique and I have no doubt there were 2.9 million unique reasons any particular marcher felt the need to show up that morning. Unfortunately, reporters have to pick headlines and quick phrases to define what the march was. I wanted to write down, as specifically as I could, why I was among the marchers this past weekend.

  • I walked for my daughters. I wanted them to see I’m willing to physically show up for something I believe is important and I think all people are important. They both have incredible freedoms because they are American girls in 2017…I want them to know they have a right to celebrate those freedoms and they should always feel safe enough to speak up for what they believe.
  • I walked for those who’ve adopted children from around the world and who may not look like the little faces they feed.
  • I walked for my friends and family, and their children, who struggle with their freedoms because they are gay.
  • I walked for the women I know who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused.
  • I walked for the stay-at-home dads who battle stereotypes because they believe in fatherhood and supporting the work of their wives.
  • I walked for my family members with disabilities and for those who are currently receiving government funding to live in assisted living situations. I want them to know I believe they deserve protections.
  • I walked for my friends in bi-racial marriages whose children have been, quite recently, targets of racism.
  • I walked for my friends who are public school teachers because I want them to know their talents and their services are valuable and worth defending.

Walking for women’s causes is complicated and many of the issues have only one thing in common: a woman cares about it. Not even all the issues I care about were represented on Saturday and many women I love didn’t feel welcomed or comfortable to march at all.

Several friends of mine don’t like the rhetoric reported by women they feel are in opposition to their beliefs. In a Facebook post that is making the rounds through feeds of women I know who support more Republican values, there were questions about the differences between the women who marched and those who didn’t:

In the post it’s written: I’m not a disgraceful woman because I didn’t march.

I completely agree. There is nothing disgraceful about the choices afforded to women in this country. That is precisely why I rallied. I didn’t protest. I didn’t carry a sign. I could barely bring myself to pin on the button, but I was compelled to show up and we each have a right to march or not…to carry a sign or go empty-handed.

Also written: You waste your time complaining about women’s rights in the US. You should spend your energy defending the rights of women around the world…those are places where women are really mistreated.

The marching energy was a rally cry…inspiring legs to keep moving for all people. It is true, American women have an incredible freedom in this country unlike anything afforded to women in the history of the world and with that freedom comes a great responsibility. My personal commitment is to remain responsible to both the vulnerable here in our country and to those suffering around the world.

Because I am a devout Catholic, I liken my march this past Saturday to that quiet walk I take every Sunday when I accompany the diversity of our church to the altar for Communion. I know there are vast opinions and philosophies from pew to pew, yet we gather each week around the guiding principle of love. Each relationship with Jesus is unique, each level of sinfulness personal, and we are asked to love instead of judge. Loving looks different for each of us.

My efforts to love meant I walked this weekend. I walked for the weird people who walked alongside me, and the vulnerable who couldn’t attend. I walked for those women who disagree with me and I also walked for that teenage girl who may never understand why I walked at all.

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2017                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @choosingtogrow

For All the Houses My Husband Built…

We’re finally building a Home.

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The five of us congregated to the family room and found sitting spaces on the floor, the futon and the fireplace. We had successfully moved the bulk of our furniture to storage and my husband was preparing for his return trip to Colorado.

Middle Sprout asked her dad, “What do you remember most about living here, dad? You do know it’s your last night here…ever.”

My husband sat quietly with her question and I could tell he was struggling for a meaningful response.

“Christmas,” he quietly reflected. “I loved Christmases here.”

What a surprising answer, I thought. We didn’t spend one single Christmas Eve in this house.

I’m sure he meant the time leading up to Christmas with the sledding, snowball fights, ice skating, tree decorating and the singing of Christmas carols. Christmas season is the time of year when our schedules slow and we are able to spend our most quality time together as a family. It’s traditionally been the only block of time in the year when my husband doesn’t work himself to the bone.

I’m glad those are the memories he cherishes.

I’m glad he didn’t pick the projects and renovations, or the times he was away from the house for work and hockey (which were numerous) or the hours he worked at his home office in order to provide for this family. I’ve come to appreciate his compulsion to construct, improve and provide.

For not one second of our marriage have I gone without provision and I am genuinely grateful for that. I do, however, look forward to relishing more time together in our new home.

We’ve lived in seven places and renovated five houses…it’s time for us to come home.

We are setting ourselves up for a radical lifestyle change, and there are parts of it that make me anxious. We have gotten very good at seeing the potential in a pre-loved home. He fixed, repaired and together we prepped all of those properties for eventual sale. We have gotten good at the business of house ownership.

I have no idea how we’ll be at the art of home-making. Picture1

I’ve just recently become comfortable with the frenetic, working energy of my husband. He loves by acts of service and I’ve taught myself to love him for it.

It takes time to get used to the rhythm of a person and we’ve just started to perfect the movement around and away from one another.

I hope we can find comfort in being still.

It will be a strange adventure for all of us to build a home from scratch. I’ve never put much color on our walls (or hung art, or bought rugs). I’ve only picked out the improvement that would make the most sense as an investment.

We’ll be busy during the build…of that I have no doubt. I’m simply preparing myself for when the dust finally settles.

Our house ownership mimics our marriage in many ways. We have noticed and worked to repair and improve the places that needed some love. I hope we are never comfortable sitting still long enough that the house simply erodes around us.

I’d like to say I know for sure it won’t…but we’ve never done this before, and we have no practice at this sort of home ownership.

I’d love to hear what it is about your house that makes it a home. (I’m looking for ideas and inspiration)

 

                                                       

Copyright 2013    Meagan Frank                           Choosing to Grow                                 www.meaganfrank.com

 

Washing off Dust with Water

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Let’s pretend that this is new. Better yet, let’s pretend I’m young.

I was okay in the dust when I was younger because I didn’t know about water.

We lived in Monument, Colorado, with a surprisingly arid landscape full of cacti. I had never seen a natural lake.

Dust felt natural.

You and I stood at the indoor balcony of our first house and watched the water pour as a paint bubble down the front, two-story wall. It wasn’t supposed to rain for four straight days. We didn’t believe the compromised roof was going to fail so soon. We tried to call for help, but learned your energy to work was going to fix things faster than any delayed contractor could.

Water started our path through dust.

We renovated that house.  I trod off proudly to my teaching job with signs of your labor carried in lines of dust on my skirts. It was a declaration of home ownership.

It didn’t bother me then.

It didn’t even bother me the other three houses we’ve renovated. It was all part of our young adventure.

I am done with dust.

It has been so messy around here the last few days. Sanding drywall drops a layer of dust that doesn’t really ever go away. I’m certain I have dust from every house we’ve renovated imbedded in my skin… or buried in my ears. Part of me is so ready for the mess to be cleaned, while another part of me knows this phase of our lives is coming to an end.

I have to admit I’m a little sad to see it go.

This last project mimics this past winter and maybe with a new perspective I can avoid bitterness about both. Let’s imagine the story has just begun and the dust settling at our feet is magical instead of maddening.

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Remember the way snow felt at the start of December? Yeah, me too. Now, let’s forget the snow that fell today has come in late March. Instead, let’s relish its freshness.

We’re at the last house renovation. This is the last time you’ll be covered in soot of your own work. From the very first house we’ve owned together, we have raised the dust to bring life to what was dying in some way.  I should embrace gratitude for our dusty story.

That’s why I need to stop myself from cringing with each footprint we leave as we walk through the dusty part we’re mending onto the wood floor we’ve already replaced.

This is it.

This is the layer of dust that, once blown away, will reveal the calming center of where we’ve been aiming to be.

A house on a lake…imbedded into a shoreline with humid leaves for blankets.  It’s not the dust-filled, wide open potential of a Pike’s Peak view, but it is the calmest place we’ve been able to imagine together that will let the dust of our crazy lives finally settle.

www.meaganfrank.com                                                              

Copyright 2013    Meagan Frank                          Choosing to Grow

Feeling Grief…Embracing Joy

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“They only have two hours of childhood left.”

It was this fleeting comment by a woman in Newtown, CT yesterday that has rendered me useless. I cannot shake her distraught and heart-broken expression as she explained to the rolling cameras that she was across town to console her friends while delaying the pick-up of her own children. She wanted her kids to enjoy their innocence for just a few hours more.

I sat with the same dilemma while at my desk in Minnesota. I sobbed at the overwhelming loss. At the grief that enveloped my every thought.  I longed to hold my children, to grab their precious faces in my hands and gaze endlessly into their bright little eyes. I knew they would come home from their school-days without a clue about what unfolded in horrific fashion hundreds of miles away, and all I wanted was to stop the vicious clock from ticking.

The clock is the problem, you know. We know all childhood, all innocence, all life will inevitably end, but we hate the truth of that. We pine for more joy than grief as we’re living, and we hurt so much for the children because they are our balance between hope and loss.

When my 12-year-old bound in the door, I greeted him in the kitchen and held him. We embraced in silence until he mumbled into my shoulder, “You alright mom?” “No” I explained and pulled back to make eye contact with him. He had heard some rumblings, and we talked about the news, and the horror, and the overwhelming feelings of grief, anger, sadness, confusion, and despair.

He knew better than to give me away when I hugged his sisters just as hard.

The girls are in fifth and first grades. They are who I picture cowering in closets or hiding in cupboards, and I was hopeful they would stay unaware for quite a while.

I knew the fifth grader would eventually catch on, and when she asked me about an Instagram photo she saw, my heart gently splintered. Our first-grader still doesn’t know, but I can hear that deafening click of the clock hand.

While I cannot help but to consider something will have to be done about this…measures will have to be taken…forward movements will need to be made, there remains this space of time that needs to be lived too.

It brings me to another scene I watched unfold this week reminding me that where grief exists, joy can too.

Most weekdays, about 2:30 in the afternoon, I watch a young man arrive at the house across the street to visit the teen-aged daughter who lives there. Most days he gets his crutches out of the car and slowly makes his way to the front door.

The young man’s name is Zach Sobiech, and he is a 17-year-old boy who is dying from cancer. His ticking clock is loud, and he hears it, but he has made a conscious decision to live in spite of it.

The last few weeks he has been in the news for a song he wrote to say good-bye to his friends and family. 

I can never watch the video dry-eyed and I think of the grief and the loss for this boys’ family and for his girlfriend, Amy.

Then Zach gave me a gift of joy I will never forget.

One sunny and somewhat unseasonably warm day this week, I noticed Zach out of his car. His crutches were sticking out of the snow, and he picked up snowballs and threw them. He launched one down the street, one at his car, and he threw a few gently down at his feet. He walked painfully, without his crutches, over to the snowplowed pile of snow in the middle of the cul-de-sac. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He picked up another few snowballs, and after throwing them, he made his way back to the drive.

A silent tear streaked down my face and I said to my husband, who had turned from his work to watch Zach too, “he’s just a kid playing in the snow.”

The next snowball he grabbed was cupped and hidden behind his back as his attention obviously moved from what he was doing to something down the street. Amy’s car pulled into the driveway, and it was apparent he was readying himself for a surprise attack.

The driver’s door opened and when Amy realized the plan, she quickly shut it. He raised his empty hands in innocence, and Amy made her way out of the car. It wasn’t long before the two of them were in the powder of the yard.  Zach arm-swiped the snow toward Amy first, and she quickly returned fire. She approached him laughing and he offered her a hug. They embraced for a moment in the sun-kissed snow, and then she let him slowly pull her down into the snow with him. They splashed each other with powder and I found myself breathlessly smiling and crying in the same glorious moment.

Life is full of triumph and tragedy, celebration and sorrow, joy and grief. It is only what we choose in even the smallest moments that define the lives we live. There will be those who rise in anger about what happened in Newtown…there will be those who rise in action…and there will be those who will be unable to rise for quite some time.  There’s no telling how we’ll react until we are in any particular moment.

In this moment, in my small kitchen in Minnesota, I hear the girls making play-doh worlds to the backdrop music of some boy band. There is a clock ticking in the background, but maybe my job as their mom is not to do what I can to keep them in an ephemeral childhood, but rather to embrace the fleeting moments, and to throw myself into that proverbial pile of snow to make snow angels any chance I get.

My Kids Won’t Listen…Unless I Teach Them How

“Look at me when I’m talking to you! Oh yeah…and take your fingers out of your ears too.”

As a parent with profound wisdom and insight to share (NOT), I really hope my kids listen to me when I am talking about something important (like putting their laundry away).

How do I teach them to be good listeners?

I know when they slink off into a slouch or physically turn their bodies away from me, they are doing everything they can NOT to listen. My instinct tells me to point out the behavior…which I do.

“Please sit up…I’m talking to you.”

This hasn’t worked as well as you would think. They have traditionally sat for a moment, and then before a full sentence has left my mouth, something jello-like takes over their organs and I have a puddle of a kid on my kitchen floor.

This intrigues me. They don’t do this for their teachers…or in the presence of other adults.  I’ve NEVER seen them do this at a practice or a dance class. What is it about my voice that provokes this internal melting?

For those of you who have been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll acknowledge that I am forever conducting experiments on our children.  Nothing dangerous (okay…so maybe a little dangerous because they are psychological in nature) but I am learning this parenting thing too, so how can you call what I do as a mother anything but an experiment?

Any-who…

I have spent some time the last few years investigating this listening thing. It’s harder than I thought…for me!

What I’ve discovered is that it is fine to point out the behaviors of good listening, but it is more important how good I am at listening.

Frankly…lately I’ve sucked.

I listen when they are saying what I want to hear.

I listen with bias and opinion already forming on my lips.

I listen in spurts between what I’m trying to capture in my writing or between glances at the emails on my phone.

I talk a good game, but these days I haven’t been playing the part of the listener very well.

I know I can be better…I used to be much, much more intentional about how I listened to our kids.

When our children were babies, I taught each of them sign language. I was fascinated by their ability to communicate before they could speak, and I would listen to them for hours.

Maybe I listened better when they were little because it felt like they were listening too. I would teach them something and hear. “red…square… bus… spider” in adorable little-kid repetition.

What I wanted them to hear would come back to me in validation.

Pre-teens are not great at validating.

So, as I’ve written through this blogpost, my challenge has become abundantly clear.

I need to parent my children with intentional listening. PERIOD!

These strategies are hard when the growing children in our house physically guard themselves against touch or Active Listening, but good parenting isn’t about what I need…it’s about what they need.

Don’t get me wrong, I deserve, (we all deserve) someone to listen to and validate our feelings, our experiences, and our ideas.  I just have to stop expecting that from my kids…they need me to teach it to them first.

I need to seek and accept validation from somewhere other than our kids.  It’s not their job right now.

That’s why blogging communities of mothers are so necessary. We are each other’s listeners…we are the ones who can validate, assure, and comfort. I’m better having gone through Momalom’s Five for Five challenge this week…not because I blogged everyday (although that provided much-needed distraction) but instead because so many of you listened…and for that I am truly grateful.

                                           

Copyright 2012    Meagan Frank                         www.meaganfrank.com              Choosing to Grow